An Inside Look at Building the New B Street Theatre
The new $29 million B Street Theatre complex in midtown will be called the Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts, named for the wife of prominent Sacramento land developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos.
A pledge from the Tsakopoulos family helped B Street finalize the financing plan for its new home at 27th Street and Capitol Avenue, which is currently under construction. The family and the Sutter Health Community Benefit combined to cover the final $3 million needed for the project.
“Because of the family’s quiet pledge last spring, the future home of the B Street Theatre and a new professional performance space for other artistic organizations and touring acts is now rising in the Sutter District of Midtown,” Buck Busfield, the founder and artistic director of B Street Theatre, said in a statement.
The Tsakopoulos family was not named publicly at the time of its donation. Sunday’s announcement of the center’s new name was intended to surprise Sofia Tsakopoulos.
“She’s always loved the arts, and she always made sure that the arts were part of our lives,” said Chrysa Tsakopoulos Demos, daughter of Angelo and Sofia. “So we’re so honored to be able to help in whatever way we can. The arts are so important just to a society, to a culture, and especially to our community.”
Sofia Tsakopoulos said she was “so surprised” by the naming, which was revealed by the unfurling of a banner at the construction site. Angelo Tsakopoulos said the connection between B Street and Sutter Health added to his interest in the project, conjuring for him images of the ancient Greek locale of Epidaurus, a healing center with a famous theater.
“Medicine became a real science at that place,” Tsakopoulos said, “where the theater became the catharsis of the soul.”
The new complex, expected to open in February 2018, will include two theaters and rehearsal space, a lobby, a full-service restaurant, an open-air courtyard and a rooftop deck. To preserve its link to one of the region’s premier arts organizations, theater productions will be called B Street at the Sofia.
Founded in 1986, B Street Theatre began as a touring theater for children and is Northern California’s only fully professional resident theater for children. Through its Mainstage, Family and B3 programs, it produces 16 plays and draws about 110,000 people each year to its current two-theater playhouse on B Street.
B Street obtained the land for its new 48,000-square-foot home as a donation from Sutter Health in 2005. But it took more than a decade of fundraising and planning before a plan to finance the project could be finalized.
Along with the land from Sutter, valued at $6 million, B Street’s financing plan included $12 million in bonds from Five Star Bank and the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank and $8.3 million in private cash donations, The Sacramento Bee reported last May.
The City of Sacramento also granted B Street a $3 million forgivable loan. In exchange, B Street agreed to hold performances at two schools in each council district, along with two “at-large” schools, every year for 20 years.
In order to pay off the building loan, B Street will raise ticket prices by $3 in its first year at the new complex and eventually increase that to $5, according to its website.
The move, though, will also allow B Street to offer more variety in its programming and enhance its theater productions, Busfield said.
The new complex includes a 365-seat children’s theater that will host the Family and B3 series as well as other events, and the 250-seat Mainstage Theatre featuring a thrust stage that allows audience members to sit around three sides.
Catwalks above and traps under the stages will allow actors and scenery to be dropped in or raised, adding effect to productions. For cast members, there will be both chorus-sized and semi-private dressing rooms, a green room and a costume shop.
“We’re going to be able to create something much more beautiful,” Busfield said.
Before construction is finished, likely around mid-December, Busfield said B Street is hoping to raise another $1.5 million through private donations to add “value” features such as hanging microphones, LED video, interior finishes to enhance the acoustics and a second set of lights for the 365-seat theater.
The larger space is intended to house children’s theater during the day and then convert in the evenings to hold concerts, dance performances, speakers and other events.